Why becoming a parent in Stockholm is like starting a business
Publish date: 16 April 2021
Stockholm is known for being one of the world’s most successful startup hubs and it’s also one of the best places to start a family, for many of the same reasons! When you think about it, having a baby is much like launching a startup -- it’s a high-risk, all-consuming, lifelong project: formation stage, scaling and exit.
There’s a lot of institutional support which is not only free but very high quality. From health care and the social safety nets like parental leave (we get 480 days to split between both parents) to small financial perks like the SEK 1,150 (around $136) annual ceiling for medical consultations.
Much of the risk is removed and the decision to have a baby doesn’t mean financial hardship or the end of a successful career, both for the mom and dad. In fact, it can be quite the opposite with many people taking some time during the parental leave to rethink and/or restructure their careers or start their own businesses.
Stockholm is the perfect environment for growth. It’s a big city but doesn’t feel like it. It’s very child friendly. For example, you can ride the bus for free when you have a pram, there are plenty of green areas, and playgrounds. The kindergartens are usually within walking distance of your home which saves plenty of time, plus they are virtually free - even the highest-earning parents pay no more than SEK 1,425 (around $168) per month. There’s a good free public school system and a staggering number of extracurricular activities for kids which are provided for next to nothing by the local municipality or the city. Hockey? Check. Piano lessons? Check. Sailing? Check!
I also get to enjoy a lot more time with my daughter than I would have been able to elsewhere. It’s the norm for dads to pick up their kids from school and it’s not a problem for me to take time off work to spend it with my daughter. And if you look at the productivity statistics, this doesn’t seem to hinder the progress of the mythical GDP growth. You can see there are a lot of successful entrepreneurial moms and dads who manage to not only build internationally-recognised companies but also spend time with their children - and not just on the weekends.
Of course, not everything in Sweden is perfect but it’s still a much higher standard in comparison to other tech hubs around the world. We don’t need a second job to afford to send our daughter to a Montessori kindergarten, or move houses just to secure a place in a high school with a better music program.
Unlike in some other countries, we know we don’t need to set up a trust fund to send our daughter to one of the world’s leading universities. I don’t envy my friends in the US who face paying a few hundred thousand dollars in tuition fees for their kids. Stockholm’s universities, like Karolinska Institutet and Stockholm University, are among the best in the world and are completely free to attend. Uppsala University is also around an hour’s drive to the north while Lund University is just four hours to the south by train.
If my daughter chooses to live in Stockholm as an adult, she could one day work for a unicorn company like Spotify, Klarna, or Mojang. Those are just some of today’s examples, I’m sure in the years to come many more exciting companies will start up or have offices here. If she prefers a career in the arts, there are also plenty of opportunities. For decades, Stockholm has been at the centre of music production and there’s also a fantastic modern art scene. It’s a great place to start your adulthood.